Archive | May, 2012

The Noodle Cure

30 May

Terakawa Ramen

885 9th Avenue

It was disgustingly hot. The shirt I was wearing was sticking to my grimy, sweaty flesh.  I wanted relief. I could walk into a department store and subject myself to a mixture of refrigerated air and the toxins released from hundreds of sample perfumes, both male and female. A plunge in a pool was a better idea, but where was that going to happen? Maybe I just needed a cold shower, which would mean getting off the hot pavement and down into the sweltering subway station for the ride home. No, I wanted more immediate relief and I knew there were other options. I knew there was the noodle cure.

A wait for ramen noodles.

I walked to my first choice; a much celebrated ramen place that I knew had been awarded many stars from the usual subjects: Yelp, Urbanspoon, New York Magazine, etc. But many stars can often mean long waits and I’ve already deliberated on my feelings about waiting on line for food The Noodles on Prince Street. It was early; there was a chance I could get lucky. As I got closer, I saw the people; sweaty, grimy too—there were obviously others who knew of the noodle cure. Or maybe they just wanted to wait in line to see if all those stars were deserved.

I turned around and headed back uptown. I knew of another noodle place. From a distance, I could see that no one was lingering outside. My pace quickened as I crossed the street. I pushed the door open. The small semi-circular counter was barren; I had the noodle place to myself.

An empty ramen house.

Even before I ordered the “Tan Tan Noodles;” a big bowl of ramen noodles in a spicy sesame sauce with minced pork, bean sprouts and scallion, I could feel my body cool. I was ready for what was to come.

A loop of Michael Jackson hits played as I tore apart the pan fried pork dumplings I ordered as a side dish. Rich with minced pork and buckwheat, the dumplings were just an amusement before the main attraction.

Pork dumplings

And then the tan tan noodles arrived. The steam was rising thickly from the bowl. I let it wash over the pores of my face before stirring the soup. Using my chopsticks, I pulled out some of the noodles. More steam was released. I blew on them just a bit and then slurped them into my mouth.  I was assaulted by heat on two levels; first from the temperature of the broth and next from the spice within it; the combination bringing a quick sheen to my forehead.

I’m about to take the “noodle cure.”

Alternating between chopsticks and spoon, I slurped relentlessly, the sound almost in rhythm with Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.” My only breaks were to use the much too thin paper napkin to blow my nose and dab at the sweat on my face.

Finally I was done. The bowl empty. I paid, “cash only,” and cleared my nose once more before walking back out to the hot street. My shirt no longer stuck to my not as grimy or sweaty flesh.  The ramen was hot but now I was cool. And that’s the funny thing about the Noodle Cure.

How does one join the “Ramen of the Month” club?

The Happiest of All Hours: Malachy’s Donegal Inn Edition

24 May

When I first moved to New York back in the good old dirty days, there was a neighborhood bar that became my local hangout called The Donegal. I frequented the place, on the corner of 72nd and Columbus, with my team after softball games on the Great Lawn, when the Great Lawn was a much used dust bowl, not the fenced-in grass museum it is now.

And since it was close to my apartment, I would also spend time by myself there watching numerous sporting events; the Yankees, boxing, and especially the New York football Giants. This was well before satellite television and when all we in New York got to see on Sunday was either the Giants or the Jets no matter how bad both teams were.

There was a white-haired, bespectacled Irish bartender named Timothy who knew me as a regular and treated me well, buying back frequent rounds for myself or whoever I was with.

The place was dark and dingy; the tables and chairs rickety. There were relics on the walls; photos of old baseball players, movie stars, and other dusty mementos. It was a gathering ground for a number of older gentlemen and a few ladies who still lived at the nearby SRO’s that, at the time, were a big part of the neighborhood. There was food; burgers, fries, eggs, chicken wings, and a few sandwiches. It was a dive, which was, of course, an attraction to me.

Malachy’s Donegal’s fine furnishing, just like I remembered it.

The Donegal also had what we used to call a “big screen” television. The picture, projected from the front, was usually blurry and had a bluish tinge to it. But we liked its unique “bigness.”

I remember watching a Monday Night game where the Giants were playing the Dallas Cowboys that resulted in a close loss for the Giants and then a shoving match with a loud Cowboys’ fan. With respect to the Donegal, we took the shoving outside.

I moved away from New York for awhile and when I returned, the Donegal was not quite the same. Timothy had disappeared. The neighborhood was changing. And I found other dives more appealing. After awhile, I noticed that the Donegal was renamed Malachy’s. I never returned to Malachy’s until recently, when I found myself in the neighborhood during the Happiest of Hours. I wondered if there would be anything I would remember about the place.

Though the name was changed to Malachy’s,  when I returned from my happy hour there , I did a search online for the Donegal and discovered that Malachy’s official name was actually Malachy’s Donegal Inn. So the bond had not  been totally severed.

Malachy’s Donegal Inn

103 W. 72nd St

As soon as I entered, I was pleased to notice that, despite the many years I had been away, not much had changed, with the exception, most prominently, of the numerous flat screen television as opposed to the one “big screen” I remembered. But that was to be expected.

The day’s specials.

There were plenty of seats at the bar and the tables were all empty. A few gentlemen were drinking beer from bottles and talking loudly in the otherwise quiet bar. They reminded me of the patrons I used to know at The Donegal and I wondered if any of the same SRO’s still existed around the now very lofty real estate of West 72nd Street.

From where I sat, I could look up and see The Babe.  It was nice to know he hadn’t moved from his spot in over 25 years.

The Babe surrounded by Christmas lights, circa 1983.

Roberto Clemente was in his same place as well, but the wings’ special was a new and welcome addition.

Gary Cooper and the Brooklyn Dodgers had always been part of the Donegal’s scenery.

As had The Duke.

I ordered the only “exotic” beer I remembered from when I used to visit: a Bass.

Getting $15.50 back from a $20 made me “happy.”

While I drank the cold beer, I overheard the gentlemen at the bar discussing old movies. “Wasn’t Cagney in a picture where he was in AA?” one of the gentlemen asked the others.

No one answered him.

He took a sip from his bottle. “Or was it Alan Hale in that picture?”

“Junior or Senior?” someone asked, but that pretty much ended the discussion.

A man with a cellphone to his ear took the seat next to me. The bartender came over.  The man ordered a beer and asked to look at a menu. After giving him a few moments, the bartender returned.

“What’s good?” the man asked.

“The specials, brisket or the pastrami,” the bartender replied.

“What do you suggest?”

“Apples or oranges,” the bartender said, a look of impatience on his face.

“Pastrami,” The man said. The bartender nodded and took the menu back.

Peanuts or pistachios are always a good go to option when hungry.

A few minutes later, the bartender returned with the man’s sandwich. I glanced at it. The pastrami looked lean, juicy; the sandwich surrounded by fries. I had to admit, it looked damn good.

I finished my beer and thanked the bartender. Just because Malachy’s was no longer The Donegal, was that really a good reason to desert what had been a comfortable refuge for me? Had I been a bit too hasty in my split with the place?

The regret I was feeling as I walked out was cut short by the realization that I could always return, preferably on a Sunday, where along with an unlimited dose of NFL action, I could take full advantage of the 20 cent wing special.

“I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

The Noodles on Prince Street

22 May

Prince Noodle House
3717 Prince Street
Unit A

I’ve gone over the rules of our Chow City group many times in these electronic pages. We look for $20 and under places. We do our best to unearth those that are under the foodie radar, which nowadays is practically impossible. We look for virgin territory in terms of cuisines, but after ten years, the only cuisines we’ve skipped are the big name items (French, German, “American,” nouveau or fusion anything).

But there was one clause that was really never discussed or spelled out in our unwritten rule book. It didn’t have to be; it was taken for granted. That was the concept of waiting in line for a table at a restaurant. It goes against everything we hold sacred when it comes to eating; it’s a shock to our eating sensibilities.

So when Rick suggested a very well documented—at least by foodies—noodles and dumpling place in Flushing called Nan Xiang Dumpling House, I gently pointed out that, from my knowledge of these things, the place has become a “foodie destination.”

Rick understood immediately and, knowing the unwritten (and never mentioned) rule, quickly dismissed his original choice and instead went with an alternate, quite literally, down the road from Nan Xiang, the road in this case being Prince Street, called Prince Noodle House.

Of our group, only Mike from Yonkers, who was called to an urgent co-op board meeting, did not make the trip to bustling Flushing. There was absolutely no wait or line to get into the Prince Noodle House and we were given a big round table next to a large celebratory party of Asians.

One of the reasons Rick decided on, first Nan Xiang Dumpling, and then the Prince Noodle House were the aforementioned dumplings; in particular soup dumplings. He wanted to experience the Shanghai-style dumpling where the soup is “frozen” within the dumpling only to melt inside when steamed. Prince Noodle had them on their menu, here called  “soup buns,” so we ordered the crab meat mini buns and the “special” mini buns for the table.

Crab meat soup buns

While we ate the soup buns, improperly at first and not with the provided spoons, the soup bursting all over our plates, Eugene told us of his trip to Jefferson City, Missouri where he attended a wedding.

“It was ridiculous,” he complained. “The wedding was catered. All they had was Mountain Dew, a keg of beer, and franks and beans. Can you imagine that?”

We couldn’t imagine it especially for a man used to the all you can eat buffets on the cruise ships and all-inclusive resort he regularly frequents.

While Eugene railed about his Jefferson City experience, I peered behind me at the big table. They were given one of those rotating round trays so they could spin it around making sharing easier. How come we didn’t get one of those, I wondered? The food was beginning to assemble on their table and I liked what I saw.

I asked our waiter about a dish they ordered that was a mix of a green, spinach like vegetable combined with what looked like tofu.

The waiter pointed to something on the menu called “malantou (kalimeris indica) w. dried tofu.”

“Indica means cannabis, or marijuana,” Zio offered as if he really knew of such things.

I ordered one for our table along with five spiced beef.

Kalimeris indica, also known as malantou with dried tofu

Served at room temperature, the malantou, vinegary greens mixed with dried shredded tofu, was a refreshing appetizer, though did not induce the melancholic buzz worthy of its name. The five spiced beef, on the other hand, thin slices of roast beef, cured with five spice powder and a sweet soy sauce drizzled over it, also served at room temperature, were addictive in a more familiar way, at least for us, than what Zio had presumed we would experience with the malantou.

Five spiced (roast) beef

Gerry immediately had his sight set on the “sliced fish swimm hot chili pepper sauce,” that was on the menu, highlighted in red to indicate that it was spicy. No one had any disagreement with his choice or of Rick’s twice sautéed pork belly.

I thought we should at least try some of the noodles at Prince Noodle House and ordered hot and spicy pork noodle soup. I added a rice dish, snow cabbage with rice cake and pork, while Zio studied the menu for one last dish.

The waiter hovered over his shoulder. “I want this,” he said, pointing to something on the menu.

The waiter bent down closer to see what Zio was pointing to.

“You want crap fish?” he said.

“Huh?” Zio immediately got flustered.

“The crap fish?” the waiter said again.

Zio looked at the menu. What he was pointing to read: “spicy bean paste Buffalo crap fish.”

“Yes, I want…number 102,” Zio concurred, indicating the number adjacent to the item where the a and the r had obviously and mistakenly transposed.

Sliced fish “swimm” in hot chili pepper sauce

First to come out was the family-sized sliced fish that, in an enormous casserole dish, was literally “swimm” in hot chili pepper sauce. A few bites brought tears to Eugene’s eyes, a sheen to Rick’s forehead, and loud honking from Gerry’s prominent, yet distinguished nose.

The noodle soup was equally spicy and the noodles, hand pulled, gelatinous in texture, lived up to its princely reputation.

Relief from the heat came with the arrival of the pork belly and the snow cabbage and rice cake. Covered with a one inch layer of fat and glazed to a burnished reddish color, the pork belly was ultra tender; the meat kept moist by its fatty coat and marinated with light soy sauce, sugar and rice wine.

Sauteed pork belly

Last to arrive was the whole carp. Smothered in a bean paste and topped with scallions and ginger, Zio was the first to sample it. He didn’t have much to say as he picked through the many bones. Gerry tried a few bites.

“Hmmm, crap fish has a very unique taste,” he said with a straight face.

There’s crap fish under all that spicy bean paste.

While we polished off almost everything but the unfortunate carp, the dishes on the rotating tray on the table behind us kept piling up. We were done and they were just starting on a huge platter of lobster. Despite having completely stuffed our faces, we gawked enviously as we paraded out of the now fully booked restaurant.

Good thing we didn’t have to wait, I thought to myself as I made my way back to the parking lot where my car was parked. Once inside my car, I stared through the windshield at Prince Street. I noticed a line had formed outside of the Nan Xiang Dumpling House. Maybe the soup dumplings and noodles were better than the stuff we just experienced at Prince Noodle House, but I wasn’t going to wait to find out.

The line for soup dumplings at Nan Xiang

The Yummy Contagion

18 May

The yumminess is spreading and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing.

The Yummy Contagion has  left its terrible mark on the wonderful cuisine of Thailand. It’s gotten so bad that not only is Thai food referred to as yummy, but some also say it’s become “yum yum.”

I very much like sushi. I just don’t like it when it’s “yummy.”

You could describe dim sum is yummy, but no one is forcing you.

I’m not sure I really want to know what one might encounter within the Yummy House.

By the way, the noodles at Yummy Noodles are…

Neckbones Presents: The Bizarre Eats of Chow City

16 May

We each have our own definition of what might be bizarre when it comes to what we eat. To some, llama hoof in black bean sauce might seem bizarre, but to others, that is sustenance

Here in the city where I dwell, there is ample evidence of peculiar, even exotic, eats. In this new segment of Fried Neck Bones…and Some Home Fries, I intend to wander the city streets, mostly aimlessly, searching for the unusual, the weird and wacky.

Weird—wacky—odd; these are all subjective terms when referring to food. What I think is bizarre, or downright disgusting, others might thoroughly enjoy, and even indulge in regularly. So I promise not to judge. I pledge to do my best to respect my fellow man’s questionable taste in food stuffs. If I slip and begin to preach or moralize on the food choices of others, please don’t hesitate to call me on it. Sometimes I just need to be reminded.

The Hawaiian

In my decades of devouring pizza, I have heard tell of an unusual slice called “The Hawaiian.” I have even seen it on display at various pizzerias; the pineapple being the prominent ingredient sitting, unappealingly, on top of the crust surrounding by cheese and ham, the combination repellent to my pizza snob sensibilities.

I knew that in pursuing the bizarre foods of New York there would be challenges. I now needed to search out a slice of Hawaiian and summon the courage to actually sample it.

My first stop was 2 Bros’ Pizza, a chain of 99 cent-slice pizzerias, They advertised the “Hawaiian,” on a display menu. I perused the pre-made cold pies on display but saw none with the customary pineapple.

“Do you have the Hawaiian?” I asked the African man behind the counter.

“The what?”

“The Hawaiian,” I said again, this time pointing to the reference on the list of pies.

He went to the same display of pies I had inspected and returned shaking his head. “No, we don’t have the Hawaiian today.”

“Will you be making any?”

“Not today,” he said.

“Ever?” I inquired hopefully.

“Yes, maybe tomorrow we make it.”

I thanked him for his help and exited.

My next stop was a Chilean-run pizzeria I knew of on the Upper West Side called Freddie & Peppers. I have had their pizza in the past and knew they usually offered very unusual combinations of slices. They just might have the Hawaiian.

I checked out the pre-made pies behind their counter but again, didn’t see any with pineapple. On their menu, there was a mention of a “Hawaiian.”

I asked the South American man behind the counter if he had the Hawaiian.

He looked perplexed. “No, we don’t have that,” he said.

I could tell from his look and the way he responded, that the Hawaiian was not something they made very often or at all anymore. I didn’t press it further or suggest that maybe it would be a good idea to remove it from their menu so as not to disappoint a driven man on a ridiculous quest.

Finally, I stopped at Maria’s Pizzeria further uptown. I double-parked and peered in. On the window was a menu. I saw it there listed as The Hawaiiana.

I ran inside. There it was: a slice adorned with pieces of ham, mozzarella, and, of course, pineapple.

I quickly ordered it and took it home for a family sampling.

The Hawaiian

After reheating it, I cut the slice into pieces, one each for the 8 and 12-year old, another for my discerning wife, and a piece for myself.

The 8-year old looked at it, made a face and shook his head.

“Try it,” I said.

“I don’t want to,” he said. This is from a boy who will eat eel and now calls Part One of the Fazool Trilogy Pasta e Ceci one of his favorite pasta dishes.

“It’s just pineapple.”

He shook his head and left the kitchen.

The 12-year old didn’t hesitate, but he rarely hesitates on anything pizza-related. He ate it heartily. “What do you think?” I asked.

His mouth full, he gave me the thumb’s up.

“Would you order it?”

“No, never,” he said after swallowing.

I nodded.

He eyed his brother’s uneaten piece. “Can I have his?”

I said he could and he stuffed it down.

Now the more mature palates sampled.

“It tastes like it came from a can,” my wife said.

She was right. The pineapple had a metallic flavor to it and its sweetness overpowered the ham and cheese. Though I could find no visual evidence of tomato sauce, there was a hint of it in the slice. How it got there, I don’t know.

The Hawaiian was edible…at least to all of us but the 8-yar old. No one gagged. And we all swallowed what we chewed. Still, I wondered, what would motivate a chef to think to put slices of canned pineapple on a pizza? Did he/she think the sweet would meld with the salty? Maybe some people just need a little sugar on their pizza? And if they do, who am I to deny them that gratification.

Tony and Tina’s Post-Honeymoon Burek

11 May

Tony & Tina’s Pizzeria
2483 Arthur Avenue

I planned to meet Zio at 593 Crescent Avenue in the Belmont section of the Bronx. This was just off Arthur Avenue, also known as the Little Italy of the Bronx. But I wasn’t making the trek for Italian food; the area is also an enclave for Albanians, Bosnians and Kosovans. I wanted the Albanian equivalent of pizza, known as a burek and Djerdan Burek was, according to Google maps, just a half block from Roberto Paciullo’s place, Roberto’s, and the planned destination for our consumption of  bureks.

“I’m bringing the Colonel,” Zio said over the phone on the morning before we were to meet.

It was no problem with me if he brought the Colonel, his long time companion, and the mother of his children, though for some reason he wasn’t very enthusiastic about it.

When I arrived at 593 Crescent Avenue, my enthusiasm waned as well, but not because we would be dining with the Colonel. Instead of being greeted with the smell of freshly baked bureks, I was confronted with the odor of hair tonic from Bato’s Professional Barber Shop. I peered inside hopefully thinking that maybe the bureks were sold in the back of the barber shop, but from what I could see through the window, there was no food at Bato’s.

593 Crescent, where you can get a trim and a shave, but no burek.

I knew there were bureks not too far from Crescent Avenue. I even noticed a “burek” sign in a window a block from Fordham Road when I was driving into the neighborhood. So Zio, the Colonel and I decided to head in that direction.

We strolled past Randazzo’s Seafood, Dominick’s Restaurant, Roberto Paciullo’s other place, Trattoria Zero Otto NoveAnn & Tony’s Restaurant (“Five Generations”), and the Arthur Avenue Baking Company, before arriving at Tony & Tina’s Pizzeria.

Inside the small pizzeria, we glanced at the assemblage of phyllo dough stuffed pies behind the counter known as bureks. And then we turned our attention to the pizza, garlic knots and calzones on the other side of the counter. Zio’s jaw drooped slightly as he stared at the wan, cold, cheese-congealed pizza. “Is that what an Albanian pizza looks like?” he asked incredulously.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I’ve never been to Albania.”

Stick to the items in Albanian.

We went for the combination platter of bureks; cheese, meat, spinach and a spiral shaped one stuffed with sweet pumpkin. As we were about the dig in, the Colonel got a phone call.

“Sorry, I have to take this,” she said, walking out of the pizzeria, cell phone in hand.

“Should we wait?” I asked

“Are you kidding?” Zio scoffed, and quickly began to devour one of the meat bureks.

Meat burek

I was a little hesitant.

“She’ll end up just taking a few bites, anyway,” he garbled with his mouth full of phyllo dough.

The Colonel was outside, leaning against a parked car, cell phone attached to her ear. I decided to take Zio’s advice and began eating.

Cheese burek

All the bureks were flaky and fresh; the cheese mild but not too dense, while the spinach was fragrant with onion. The ground meat in the meat burek had just enough grease to slightly absorb into the pie dough.

Spinach burek

The Colonel returned. “That was my friend M,” she said. “She’s almost 10 centimeters dilated.”

“Uh huh,” Zio muttered disinterestedly, his mouth now stuffed with a cheese burek.

The Colonel took a tiny bite of each and then bagged the rest.

“What did I tell ya,” Zio said.

I tried to answer, but I felt a tickle in my throat. I drank some water. The tickle was still there. I coughed and then took another sip of water. I coughed again. A miniscule flake of phyllo dough was caught in my windpipe. I coughed once more. The flake finally dislodged.

Bill Clinton: A friend and ally of the burek.

The Colonel took her bag of  nibbled bureks, and the three of us walked back down Arthur Avenue, Zio stopping briefly at Umberto’s Clam House, where  a sign said:“Bus tours are welcome.”

“Didn’t they used to sell live chickens here?” Zio asked.

“They did,” I said. “I once wanted to buy one, but they told me you needed to order it at least a day in advance so they could kill the bird and then clean it up.”

Zio stared at the colorful sign proclaiming Umberto’s many happy hour specials. He shook his head. “Isn’t Umberto’s where Joey Gallo was whacked?” he asked.

“Yeah, but that was at the original on Mulberry Street,” I replied.

He continued to stare and then shook his head. “I liked it better when it was a chicken place,” he said. And then we continued our walk through the Little Italy of the Bronx.

The Fazool Trilogy: Part Three

9 May

Of the Italian-American all star bean trio I have written about in the Fazool Trilogy, it is this dish that most refer to when they speak in that slang my high school Italian teacher reviled, “fazool.”

And in honor of my high school Italian teacher’s pet name for me, “pigrone” or lazybones, I’ve titled my version of pasta e fagioli accordingly.

It’s not just because I was a lazy student  in my high school Italian class that I’ve named the dish this way but because, by using canned beans instead of dried, which require soaking and then cooking on their own, I’ve cut a huge corner in preparation. I’m all for cutting corners in cooking if the results are pretty much negligible either way. And in my experience, I find little difference between taking the time to soak the dried beans instead of using canned. Certainly not enough to warrant the extra time and effort.

Unlike pasta e ceci, and pasta lenticchie, my grandmother did not make pasta e fagioli much for me. I remember her serving heaping bowls of it to my grandfather at lunch when he would come in from gardening, construction, house painting; whatever  handy work he was doing at the time. I don’t recall my brothers and I being forced fed what my grandfather ate heartily. Maybe she assumed that we would totally reject the concept of the pale cannellini bean and rather have a tuna fish or peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And looking back now, that’s a shame. As a result, I came to my appreciation of pasta e fagioli later in life.

When they say “fazool” this is what they mean.

My grandmother, I do know, made pasta e fagioli with the legume of choice for the dish, the cannellini bean. I have known Italians, however, who swear by the kidney bean when making their “fazool.” To me that changes the dish completely, but who am I to judge anyone on their fagioli preference?

All of the bean dishes in the Fazool Trilogy are unique and not just because of the type of bean. The first in the Trilogy, Pasta e Ceci, is more like a pasta dish; the pasta being the dominant part of the dish with the chick peas folded into the pasta.

In the Fazool Trilogy: Part Two, Pasta e Lenticchie, the lentils are the main attraction while the strands of broken spaghetti fill out and balance the dish by adding much needed starch to the heftiness of the lentils.

Pasta e fagioli, at least the way I like to make it, is more like a soup, or stew, than the other two. And because it has a more liquid consistency, unlike the others, I add a little meat flavoring, chopped smoked ham or pancetta. If you want to keep it meatless, you won’t lose much; the same can be said with adding meat to the other two in the Trilogy.

What follows below is my pretty standard, and hopefully not too difficult, recipe.

Lazybones Pasta e Fagioli


1 tbs of olive oil

2 cans of cannellini beans, (15-16 ounces) drained and rinsed.

1 medium onion, chopped fine

1 celery rib, chopped fine

1 medium carrot chopped fine

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp dried oregano

¼ tsp red pepper flakes

3 to 4 cups of chicken broth (beef broth works too)

2 cups water

1 tsp salt

1 28 ounce can of diced or chopped tomatoes with juices (I like pieces of tomato in my broth, so I usually go with diced or chopped; sometimes crushed is just puree)

3 ounces smoked ham, pancetta, or bacon (I prefer the first two to bacon just because bacon’s strong flavor influences the dish more than I like, but it still works. For this batch I’ve used smoked ham).

1 secret ingredient (that’s not so secret anymore, to find out what it is, refer to The Fazool Trilogy: Part Two.)

Secret ingredient

8 ounces of a small pasta shape (I like ditalini, but small shells, elbows, and tubetini also work).

¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

Grated Parmesan cheese

The pasta of Pasta Fagioli

Heat the oil in a heavy Dutch oven or wide bottomed pot over medium-high heat.
Add the ham, pancetta or bacon and cook until it browns lightly, around 5 minutes.

Chopped smoked ham

Stir in the onions, celery, and carrots, until they are softened. Around 7 minutes.

Add garlic, red pepper flakes, and oregano, stir for about 1 minute.

Pour in tomatoes and the secret ingredient that’s not so secret anymore and bring to a boil.

Pasta e Fagioli minus the pasta and the fagioli.

Add the broth, water, 1 teaspoon salt, beans, and bring to a boil and then simmer for about ten minutes.

Drop the pasta into the pot and cook until it is a minute from being al dente. Timing depends on the pasta shape and brand; check the package. (Beware of overcooking the pasta; you don’t want mush).

Turn off the heat, stir in the parsley, ladle into bowls, and add the desired amount of freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Pasta e Fagioli

Like the others in the Trilogy, Pasta e Fagioli is best served with a crusty bread and a green salad.

Thus concludes the Fazool Trilogy, however, I am always open to suggestions and ideas on how this series can be continued and transformed into epic status. So please don’t hesitate to comment with your fazool insight.

And the Answer Is…

7 May

On Friday I teased you with this appetizing photo.

If you cannot make it out from the picture,  that is an egg and tuna salad sandwich on rye toast accompanied by a tall, cold egg cream.

I’m sure that you can order the same thing at other places, but an egg and tuna salad sandwich and an egg cream are two of this place’s  self-proclaimed, and rightly so, classics.

This place is an old one where they boast that they have been “raising New York’s cholesterol since 1929.”  I posted these two pictures of some the restaurant’s relics as hints.

Retro advertising


High tech nostalgia.

Here is another look at where I was.

You can swivel on the counter stools if you want to.

I’m happy to report that many of you were able to identify the place from the few photo hints I gave you as…


Next month the challenge will be more difficult, I promise.

Name That Place

4 May

Why do I think the two “classics” above are a dead giveaway to naming this month’s place? Because I have much faith in my New York-based foodie followers to have experienced those particular classics.

But have I overestimated? Here are two more  photo hints.

Retro anyone?

High tech nostalgia.

These photos should be more than enough to create an avalanche of comments below with your answers. If not, well..

As usual, I will Name That Place right here at Fried Neck Bones…and Some Home Fries on Monday.

Cinco de Mayo Tacos on Veinticinco de Abril

1 May

Los Portales Taqueria
25-08 Broadway

Cinco de Mayo was more than ten days away, yet Rick used the Mexican heritage celebration as his reasoning for choosing the Astoria-located, Los Portales Taqueria as our next eating destination.

A few hours before our assigned dining date, however, I received a text from Rick saying his boss was “urging” him to have dinner with him in New Jersey. So instead of celebrating an early Cinco de Mayo at a taqueria in Queens, Rick was in Newark eating red meat at a Brazilian steakhouse.

And it some ways, it was a good thing. As it was, we had to squeeze an extra chair around the biggest table at Los Portales to fit the five of us. If Rick were present, one of us would have had to eat at a separate table, which, depending on who was the odd man out, was not necessarily a bad thing.

Just beyond the portales of the taqueria was a cauldron of meats along with a burnt red glazed slab of pork (al pastor) on a spit. All of it looked authentically promising though that was expected when in Rick’s initial email declaring our destination he wrote “don’t try to call them—English is limited.”

A cauldron of meats.

The menu covered all the basics: tacos, cemitas, tortas, burritos, tostadas, quesadillas, and assorted familiar platters like pechuga de pollo, bistec en salsa rojo, and fajitas. There were also bonus items that we had no interest in like wraps, “hamburgesas,” vegetarian specials, and hard shell tacos.

Despite the limited English, hand gestures and finger pointing made ordering very easy. We started with two orders of guacamole. They came on plates with chips sticking out of the bright green mounds of guacamole like Mayan temples. With the guacamole we also tried the grilled green scallions, some so big they were more like spring onions; the char bringing out their sweetness.

Grilled scallions

Zio quickly gravitated to the oreja taco, known in English as pig’s ear while I started with a saudero (veal flank). Sprinkling some of the restaurant’s red salsa on it, I devoured the taco quickly. Zio was a little more hesitant with his pig ear taco, however. The tiny pieces of chopped ear were so smooth it was as if the pig had them waxed. Gerry noticed that Zio had left an assortment of the ear pieces on his plate. “You’re not eating those,” he inquired.

“What? You want some?” Zio wondered. “You can have them if you want.”

Gerry shook his head. “No, they’re all yours.”

“Thanks,” Zio muttered.

Pig’s ears tacos

Who am I to judge on what another man orders at an authentic taqueria? So I tried to keep my mouth shut when both Eugene and Zio chose the pedestrian chicken fajita. Gerry went a bit more adventurous with the chilaquiles with huevos; a variation of huevos rancheros; the eggs served over cut corn tortillas and doused in a green tomatillo sauce.

My choice; the al pastor cemita, a fresh sesame seeded roll stuffed with chunks of the burnt-red roasted pork, avocado, cheese, and salsa rojo was so good I plan on scouring the nearby taquerias of East Harlem to see if  the sandwich can be replicated thus saving me a subway ride to Astoria.

Al pastor cemita

While the rest of us had long finished, Mike from Yonkers was deliberately nibbling at whatever it was he ordered that included shrimp, and from what I could make out, also peppers and onions, and lots of them. The eating of the meal was a studied process. He would break off a small piece of the tortillas that came with his meal, scoop some shrimp onto it, add a little rice, then some beans, a drizzle of one of the salsas; sometimes green, other times red, and then slowly chew, swallow and then repeat the process.

When he finally finished, he abruptly headed to the rest room. His absence was not immediately noted; the hysterical clamoring from a Spanish-language comedy Zio dubbed the “Mexican Honeymooners” that played on the television in the restaurant distracting us from Mike from Yonker’s wherabouts.

When we were no longer amused by the bizarre comedy on the television, Zio proudly whipped out a card. “Do you know what this is?” He asked waving it in front of us.

None of us had a clue.

“With this I can get into the subway at half price,” he said. “One of the many advantages of becoming a senior citizen.”

Like Zio, Mayor Bloomberg is also very proud of his senior citizen metrocard.

Zio’s senior citizen metrocard held our interest for a few minutes more and when the thrill receded, I realized the seat next to me remained empty. Mike from Yonkers had been gone for a long time. “I hope he’s alright,” I said and as if on cue, he emerged from the rest room.

“Everything okay?” I asked

He sighed; his face a bit sallow. “Um…I forgot to tell you. I had Mexican food for lunch. Enchiladas.”

Mike from Yonkers’ downfall

With that admission, we all looked at each other. There wasn’t much to say. If a man wants to celebrate Cinco de Mayo ten days before the actual holiday with a double dose of Mexican food that is his right. But, still, we didn’t have to stick around to witness the potentially nasty consequences of such a decision. And with that we parted company.

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